Lightening flashed and thunder crashed outside as we descended into the subterranean chamber that is UnderTow. The rare Arizona stormy weather set the perfect tone as we embarked on UnderTow’s newest chapter, Drake’s Pass, for a recent media tasting. The frosty adventure unfolded throughout the evening as we sipped on UnderTow’s newest imaginative cocktails and submerged into the fantastical icy atmosphere proving, once again, that UnderTow is a lot more than just your average tiki bar.
Hints of the new chapter were evident as soon as my husband and I entered Sip, the coffee and beer joint that sits above UnderTow. A gentle blue glow guided us down the staircase to the bustling bar below where hundreds of icicles are suspended throughout the small space while snowy embellishments reference the Drake’s Pass theme. The portholes that once illuminated views of sunny tropical beaches and jungles have changed to an Arctic scene with icebergs slowly floating by. Was it the power of suggestion or was the AC vent above me actually blowing out sporadic bursts of crisp air? All I knew for sure is once again the Barter & Shake Hospitality crew have captivated the tale they are telling.
“When planning a chapter, we do take into consideration the physical environment and opportunities we can take advantage of to make the space feel like it is transported to that place in time,” says Rich Furnari of Barter & Shake.
This is the fourth menu transformation for the bar but is labeled Chapter Seven of the ongoing storyline found within the menu booklet. Drake’s Pass is the body of water between South America’s Cape Horn and the South Shetland Islands of Antarctica. I remember learning in elementary school these stormy waters were some of the most dangerous and deadliest feared by many sailors.
“We chose locations in our story for continuity. The ship has been set on a path with a specific mission that was outlined in the narrative of our first menu, Dock & Stock. Chapter One outlines UnderTow is running goods from New York to San Francisco,” Furnari explains. “This is the 1800s before the Panama Canal and the transatlantic railway when speedy clipper ships were the fastest way of getting across the country by going around the tip of South America. That is exactly where we found the boat now.”
Though the actual Drake’s Pass seas are rough, UnderTow’s bar is smooth sailing as the bartenders meticulously construct cocktails. Our server Tyka, who is also the bar manager, was captivating as he passionately described menu items and helped guide me on my cocktail voyage. First was the gin based Domuyo Volcano. A tall tiki-style glass showcased the vivid blush-pink cocktail garnished with a small bouquet of mint and cluster of blueberries. Hints of rum and various citrus transported me to a tropical state of mind. My husband’s choice was the aged rum, Talon of Tenacity. A frothy pearl cocktail in a snifter-type glass packed a punch as the aged rum was the first to hit your lips. Smooth hints of banana and coconut gave this strong drink a classic tiki twist. As we were finishing our first round, the subtle soundtrack suddenly changed, provoking a bit of suspense and drew my attention over to the portholes. I won’t give away too many spoilers, but the full sensory experience of the tale of Drake’s Pass was now in full swing as our next round arrived. The Deconstructed Pina Colada was Tyka’s next pick for me. The drink was poured tableside into a fancy Old Fashion crystal glass and I knew I was in for a treat. A bright fuchsia orchid and toasted coconut shavings simply garnished this clear elegant cocktail. My first thought was, ‘”This is a Pina Colada’s distinguished, mature older brother.” My husband’s cocktail, the Dutchman’s Demise, had a milky consistency thanks to the white rum and coconut. It was housed in a bamboo-shaped cup with a theatrical flaming lime slice flickering on top. More flavors such as strawberry and cinnamon unfolded as he continued sipping.
Alas, our time was up and we ascended back to reality, and into our Uber. We agreed that an evening at UnderTow is a rare experience triggering both childhood giddiness with fantasy ambiance and adult enjoyment with the creative cocktails proving Barter & Shake is excelling with each new chapter and venture. And though the storm was still brewing outside, we didn’t care, we were feeling warm and rosy-cheeked as we headed home into the night.
3620 E. Indian School Rd., Phoenix